Understanding Workplace Values
How to Find People Who Fit Your Organization's Culture
A new recruit might seem to tick all the right boxes, displaying a high degree of competence, aptitude and experience. But that still doesn't necessarily make them right for the job.
Workplace values are one of the most important factors in choosing a new team member. Values inform everything you do – and if values clash, it can show.
We all have our own workplace values. And, while you can't always make sure that each person's values are perfectly aligned, you can try to hire people who fit. In this article, we'll look at how you can better recognize and understand workplace values – the attitudes that "make them tick."
The Importance of Workplace Values
Your workplace values are the guiding principles that are most important to you about the way that you work. You use these deeply held principles to choose between right and wrong ways of working, and they guide important decisions and career choices.
Some (possibly conflicting) examples of workplace values include:
- Being accountable.
- Making a difference.
- Focusing on detail.
- Delivering quality.
- Being honest.
- Keeping promises.
- Being reliable.
- Being positive.
- Meeting deadlines.
- Being a great team member.
- Respecting company policy and rules.
- Showing tolerance.
It's important that your people's personal workplace values align with the organization's workplace values. These set the tone for your company's culture, and they pinpoint what your organization, as a whole, cares about.
Values alignment helps the organization as a whole to achieve its core mission by providing a common purpose. When values are out of alignment, people work toward different goals, with different intentions, and with different outcomes. This can damage work relationships, productivity, job satisfaction, and creative potential.
While there are many positives to hiring like-minded people, there are also downsides. Hiring only for "cultural fit" risks creating a monoculture – a unit that tends toward groupthink and even discriminates against difference.
See our article on "cultural add" to learn how to hire people that reflect your organization's values but bring something new to the table, too.
Identifying Your Core Workplace Values
Before you learn how to identify the values of others, make sure that you understand your own values. For example, does meeting a project deadline take priority over delivering exceptional work? Once you have a thorough understanding of the values that are most important to you, you can better understand and identify others' values.
Start by talking with your most respected team members about the workplace values that they feel are important. Ask them to brainstorm the values that they believe are most prevalent among good performers, and list these on a whiteboard or flip chart for them to see.
Once they have come up with their ideas, work together to cut the list down to the five most important workplace values. (Use the Modified Borda Count if you have any problems reaching consensus.)
Next, discuss how people demonstrate these values every day. How do they make these values come to life? And how can you encourage more of these behaviors?
You can also talk to team members one-on-one to get a better idea of their workplace values, coach them to explore beliefs and values, or simply study their behavior. For instance, team members might say that they value teamwork, but it's the people who stay late to help a colleague who actually demonstrate this.
Organizational values are equally important to team and individual values. Your organization's values may be listed in an employee handbook or on an intranet site. You can also identify organizational values by looking at how people work within the company, and by looking at the actions that the organization has taken over the last few years.
How to Understand People's Workplace Values
We'll now explore four ways to understand the workplace values of your people and of any potential new recruit.
Ask Focused Interview Questions
When you're interviewing potential team members, use focused questions to identify their workplace values. First, ask questions based around your own organization's workplace values. For instance, imagine that you want to find a team member who, among other values, appreciates diversity.
You could ask questions like:
- "Describe a time when you had to work with a wide variety of people. How did you go about identifying and understanding their points of view? How did you adapt your own working style to work more effectively with these people? What was the outcome?"
- "Has there ever been a time when your beliefs clashed with someone else's on your team? If so, how did you overcome these differences?"
These questions encourage interviewees to open up about how they approach these issues.
See our article on structuring interview questions to find the answers you need from interview questions.
Use Role-Playing Scenarios
Set up scenarios or problems that are subtly centered around the workplace values that you're looking for. People in role-playing scenarios have to think on their feet, which means that it's difficult for them to adjust their behaviors to the ones they think you want to see. This means that you're more likely to get an accurate look at how they would behave in your team.
Look at Past Work History
You also need to look at the potential recruit's past work history. Examine the organization that they worked at previously to identify any possible clash in values (this might be most obvious if they've worked with a well-known competitor).
Keep in mind that while most people can be coached to adapt to a new working culture, some professionals will find it hard to shift their priorities. Deeper values may be very hard to change.
Use Psychometric Tests
Psychometric tests are useful for measuring the values and beliefs of potential hires because they're standardized. Recruits can't simply tell you what they think you want to hear.
Instead, they must answer questions that will point to their deepest values, beliefs, and motivating factors. You can use tests such as The California Psychological Inventory (CPI™) to identify many aspects of an individual's interpersonal experience, values and feelings.
Our Recruiting Skills Bite-Sized Training session can help you to design jobs, write job adverts, and ask interview questions that attract people with the right values.
Workplace values drive the attitudes and behaviors that you see within your team. These values might include respecting others, keeping promises, showing personal accountability, or providing excellent service.
It's important to identify and understand the workplace values of successful team members, so that you can select new recruits who share these values or can add to them in some way.
When interviewing new recruits, ask focused interview questions, use role-playing scenarios, look at their past history and experience, and use psychometric tests to find the recruits with the best cultural fit.
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